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VOL. 128 | NO. 152 | Tuesday, August 06, 2013

School Opening Goes Smoothly With A Few Bumps

By Bill Dries

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Missed buses and late buses as well as late registration were an expected part of opening day of the consolidated school district.

And the problems arrived just as expected Monday, Aug. 5, but not in large enough numbers to cause any major disruptions on the opening day.

A bus load of school board members, school system staff and superintendent Dorsey Hopson toured eight schools across the system over the first seven hours of the new school year.

The schools ranged from Carver High School in South Memphis and Melrose High School in Orange Mound to Kate Bond Middle School in Bartlett and Millington Middle School.

“There was a lot of teaching and learning going on the first day,” Hopson said at the end of the tour. “I think what you see is that the school experience is going to remain unchanged.”

Stopping in a second period class at Frayser High School, Hopson asked a student “What’s the biggest change you’ve noticed?”

“I’m a senior,” she replied.

Meanwhile, Hopson said two charter schools set to open Monday as W.E.B. DuBois Consortium Schools did not open. Hopson said former Memphis City Schools superintendent and former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton, who is with the charter school company, made the decision not to open them because of low enrollment.

“A few of his schools didn’t have the enrollment that he wanted, so he decided not to open two of them," Hopson told board members on the bus.

"We’re working to make sure what schools they are going to," he said referring to conventional schools the students who did enroll would now register late for.

When the bus hit the road at 6:30 a.m., the driver’s radio crackled with traffic between drivers and dispatchers that caught the ear of Hopson and school board members.

Hopson said last week that bus problems and mix ups are normal on opening day of any school year. But he also said the school system’s switch to three bell times and the new routes that came with that were what kept him awake at night as he contemplated opening day.

“Report your number and go ahead,” a dispatcher said as the school officials drove south from school board headquarters to Carver and saw other buses on cross streets.

“It’s very congested and I’m going to be late,” a driver in traffic on Germantown Parkway reported later.

At each of the nine schools, Hopson’s first question to the principals of the schools was what problems they had. All said the bus problems were minor.

At Idlewild Elementary School in Midtown, Hopson’s daughter started first grade and Hopson met Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. briefly in the school’s narrow hallways.

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell was at several of the other schools.

At Idlewild many parents walked their children to school on Linden Avenue, waiting at one of the three entrances to school for the doors to open.

At Germantown High School, principal Ted Horrell took the adults into the third lunch period of the day for the school of 2,000 and warned them they might see a lot of teenagers standing around trying to figure out where to sit.

“That is more a function of being in high school for the first day,” he said, than any logistical problem.

A classroom for special needs children at Southwind Elementary School drew questions from board members about how the school system provides services to those children. Down the hall at Southwind, third grade teacher Molly Fleming’s students were working on a brainstorming assignment “thinking about numbers that represent them.”

Melrose High School principal LaVaugh Bridges gave the schools group a lesson in the school building as well as the Orange Mound school’s history.

He showed them a picture of the current Melrose High School which opened in 1972.

“That’s when I walked in this building. You do the math,” he said of his role as the long time principal of the school, which Hopson renewed this year with an appointment to lead the school again.

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